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Astrid eyed the bill pile.

She knew the money was there. The Frys had made sure it all came together so that she and David would be fine, but that didn’t take account of her. She’d never been the one in charge before. There had been her parents and then Ronald; she was the ornament. Until David and Luke who helped to find a way out but god (no, gods, she knew some of them), sometimes she wondered if it wouldn’t be simpler if someone else was taking care of it all.

David would help as he was good at sums, but he’d done enough worrying about everything before and getting blamed for wanting to be a boy. This was her responsibility.

She took a drink of her cold tea and looked over to the mantel where a box of matches had pride of place. There was always one there in case they were thinking about Luke. Luke - no, Loki - would be more trouble than help with this as he seemed to mean well, but didn’t always think enough. It also seemed as if he was less likely to set fire to the world now that he was back with his family, but she knew it wasn’t easy. Sometimes he would come visit with an old look in his eyes and David would be careful around him. Though he and David were a good match for each other that way as David was used to having to plan ahead to make everything work and kept Luke from too much new trouble. Alan and Luke even seemed to be figuring out how to be friends with each other. She had been afraid that everything would fall apart because Luke or Loki (he was still both names depending on how he acting) might not like sharing David.

But none of that was helping to get the bills sorted out for the end of the month, which had to be done. There should be enough money for them to have a nice vacation to Stratford, which David would like. Some of the Henry plays were being put on and he’d appreciate the politics and the constraints of Prince Hal. That was added to the list of things to do but it was a nice one, not something that required being the grown up in the house.

As she set her pen to paper, the stairs rattled as David swept in with Alan, Luke and Thor, she hadn’t expected Thor. David slid a bit on the floor as his sneakers were muddy, and she laughed as Thor collared him like a puppy.

“Careful there,” Thor said as he set David down near the table on the other side of the apartment.

“Oh, it’s fine, the floor can manage some mud,” she said, and grinned at David’s look. Thor was the only person who could get away with treating him as if he was small and that was mainly because Thor was taller, bigger and because he laughed as he corrected David.

Behind them a woman with dark hair and a hint of a breastplate in her sweater entered. She ignored all the boys’ horsing around and walked up to Astrid.

“Hello, I’m Sif. I’ve been meaning to get here and of course Thor nor Loki has told you because they’re being them. I was off in Alfheim last year but meant to come by. So, here I am.”

By this time, Thor had set David down and they had discovered the rather sad looking scones Astrid had made earlier. Sif laughed at their expressions, and went to get the teapot boiling.

“Don’t worry,” she told Astrid. “It’s food, they’re happy.”

“Why would you want to meet me?” She knew all that she had done that week, most of it involved helping David and Luke be elsewhere, but hadn’t saved anyone, “I didn’t do much, just drove David around.”

“You fed Loki, and let him charm you, which not everyone does. He needed that, ask Sigyn about it. She’ll tell you.”

“Sigyn, I have asked her to tea, but we haven’t had it yet.” The kettle whistled and she poured the water, noting the patterns on Sif’s sweater. It truly was armor somehow, captured in the knitting to reflect her true self like how if you looked just right, Thor’s hammer was always on his belt. Astrid had read of her, a warrior who had to prove her worth but respected by all the gods and warriors. And now she was standing in this small kitchen, with the stove that spat fire if it wasn’t lit correctly, having tea.

“Just keep asking her, she’s never been as comfortable being seen but she should be.”

“Oh, why?” The little she had read about Sigyn and from what David had said, she seemed like she would understand what had happened this last year. Going from being Ronald’s wife to Astrid with no easy label.

“Because she’s always been with Loki first and she’s gotten used to it. I don’t understand it.
I decided that I was going to be as fine a warrior as any of them but on my terms.”

“Your terms, that makes me think of all the papers I’ve had to deal with; divorce, adoption, leases. And those are always met by some man staring at me with a look of who do you think you are as David fidgets and considers telling them off. He hasn’t yet, wouldn’t blame him but he shouldn’t. Sorry, listen to me natter on and the kettle’s boiling.” Astrid poured out the tea as Sif held the teapot.

As they walked over to the others, Sif said, “I think you do know your terms, Astrid. You have managed to triumph over all that paperwork.”

Astrid opened her mouth to point out that it wasn’t that simple when she met Sif’s eyes and realized she was being seen as an equal. Then she closed her mouth and went to see if there were any of her lopsided scones left.

*****

It took almost a month before Astrid was able to set down a time to have tea with Sigyn. Arranging it involved messages through Loki, which sometimes failed horribly. He meant well, she kept telling herself, it was only that his thoughts weren’t focused. Finally it was only when she and David had been at Wallsey, she had seen Sigyn and asked her to come for tea that Wednesday was a time truly set.

Astrid found the best table at the her favorite tea shop. This wasn’t a time to risk David showing up or anyone else, and it was a neutral spot to speak to another woman who was known only by being Loki’s wife. They hadn’t spoken much as they sat down, just pleasantries before ordering, and then it all got rather awkward. Sigyn turned her tea cup and looked at it instead of Astrid, while Astrid tried not to fidget.

She hadn’t expected this to be so odd. After all, she knew how to meet people, or she thought she did, and Sigyn was nice just quiet. And she had invited Sigyn for tea because she wanted to know her better. They had only ever spoken when Luke was around and being more Loki; it was hard to get a sense of who Sigyn was with Loki around. Astrid sipped her tea and finally asked, “How have you been?”

“Good, busy, you know how Loki always has some new idea that he has to try. He’s decided that perhaps he should learn to truly understand cricket. I think it makes him feel rather sad to not understand when David and Alan are talking about it. I’ve tried to remind him not to be jealous since they are the right age to be friends, but you know him.” As she talked, Astrid bit into one of the biscuits she’d ordered, this was a good start.

“That would explain why the last time I saw him, he was pouting so much and seemed somehow younger than David. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how he does that. David was sighing at him but wouldn’t tell me why.” Some days Loki was old enough to have had a wife and been in prison, then sometimes he would turn up as Luke who was a peer to David.

“Of course not, sometimes boys want to be boys even when they’re really not,” Sigyn giggled and Astrid smiled. The way Sigyn loved Loki was wonderful but not the sort of love she had ever had. Ronald had his moments of being kind but it was never a love that was worth changing her life for, although the marriage had altered her. She had expected to be mistress of her own house instead of being one more voice in a crowded house...and one that wasn’t even allowed into all the secrets of that house. Now it was her turn to sigh as Sigyn watched her.

“Astrid?

“I think sometimes I have too much time on my hands though I know there’s always something I should be doing. It’s all rather odd,” It wasn’t easy to admit, she had all her life been good at knowing how to look proper and do what was acceptable. What she was doing now was right but not proper; raising David on her own because Ronald and his family didn’t think either of them worth their time.

Sigyn squeezed her hand with one of her sad smiles. Astrid didn’t like those, they reminded her of looks David got sometimes when he didn’t talk about how things used to be.

“Duty weighs heavy,” Sigyn said.

Astrid swallowed her tea quicker than she should have and coughed. Duty sounded important, except she didn’t feel important. All she did was watch over David and he over her too, he asked about her clothes and noticed if she bought something new. God, would this ever get any easier?

When Sigyn leaned over to refill her tea, she almost jumped out of her seat though Sigyn was quiet. “Sorry, I was someplace else.”

“Yes, I know. Loki told me that you and David understood where he’d been, but you’re free now.” Sigyn’s words hung in the air and Astrid started to speak but stopped. Before her duty had been to go where she was told, if Ronald was in a nice mood have money to spend and hide her smoking, because it wasn’t done in Dot’s mind. David had had it worse, always being sent off and never seen except for someone who was in the way. Now they had their own space with friends, gods, bills but bills that were theirs and not held above them by someone who didn’t see them.

They were free from that house which had never truly been either of their homes.